Chris Rattue runs through the best and worst from the sporting weekend.
WINNER/LOSER: Wayne Barnes/stereotypes
The comments sections under media stories about the English referee reveal there is still a bunch of bitter and twisted New Zealand rugby heads who have trouble dealing with All Blacks’ World Cup defeats.
In his just-released book, Barnes wondered: “What the hell is wrong with this country [New Zealand]?” -because of the abuse he received for his officiating of the 2007 quarter-final against France.
It’s a very good question and one that deserves investigating.
Although it should be rephrased: “What the hell is wrong with the rugby mob in New Zealand?”
The rugby fraternity doesn’t actually represent the entirety of this country, even if in their mind they do.
As for trying to answer the question that Barnes poses... here’s my best attempt.
Rugby has developed a tremendous sense of entitlement because of its position as the overwhelmingly dominant sport in a sparsely-populated country with a small economy. Those central to rugby are used to being feted and getting their own way.
As a nation, we seem to have a fragile sense of self that requires constant ego-feeding. Geographical isolation doesn’t help foster a healthy perspective.
When the big bad world comes calling and rugby doesn’t get the results it craves, a combination of the above means a lot of toys get hurled out of the cot.
Added to that, those at the top - like All Blacks coaches - know they have a willing audience when they encourage the flowering of excuses for their failures.
Just a theory... an empirical study on the topic would be fascinating.
WINNER: Travis Head
Head had a World Cup cricket final that will never be forgotten, as Australia rolled favourites India at the stunning stadium in Ahmedabad.
The hosts got off to a fast start but Head produced a catch for the ages to dismiss the flying Rohit Sharma and stop India in their tracks.
The replays showed how quickly Head anticipated where the mishit lob was going, sprinting on a perfect path and diving at an awkward angle to take the ball at full stretch.
Who knows to what extent this boosted his confidence, but the feel-good factor was oozing from his bat as he then put India to the sword, scoring 137 from 120 balls.
WINNER: Australian cricket
Has had a few tough times, but still an amazing force. A sixth World Cup title, against the odds, is further proof of that.
WINNER: Indian cricket arenas
WINNER: Novak Djokovic
The Serbian is so dominant in tennis that a record-extending eighth time as the year-ending world number one almost gets lost in the crowd of his unbelievable statistics.
Carlos Alcaraz is doing his best to mount a challenge - but so he should, considering Djokovic is 36 years old.
A huge clue to Djokovic’s incredible tenure lies in his refusal to get the Covid vaccine. In his eyes, it was a risk to his body, and he was not prepared to roll the dice on his career, no matter the outcry. There are no half-measures in his tennis preparation, which is why he has been so good for so long.
Djokovic lets nothing get in his way. And very little does. He is up there with the greatest male athletes of all time - Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi et al.
WINNER: Max Vertappen
He’s not only the undisputed Formula One champion. Verstappen is also good for a quote, including this on taking the series to the Las Vegas streets.
“I love Vegas, but not to drive in a Formula One car... I love to have a few drinks, throw everything on red, have some nice food but emotions, passion? It’s not there compared to some old-school tracks, Spa, Monza.”
Verstappen said Las Vegas was more about putting on a show than genuine sport.
LOSER: Sky Sport
Is Sky TV still for sale? I’m not sure.
Takeover talks were recently terminated after the offer from an undisclosed buyer was short of expectations.
I’m not surprised.
The rumour mill says it is still up for grabs. But what does a buyer get?
The all-important sporting content on Sky is erratic. Friends are complaining to me right now about the prime-time viewing being full of niche stuff, including bowls and low-profile women’s sport.
I think Sky faces a bit of a problem around the latter.
There is a lot of understandable and justifiable pressure for all media to improve coverage of women’s sport.
But most of it isn’t a big seller. Women’s team sport is behind the eight ball and has a long way to go.
There is a huge gap between the really good stuff, like the best of the recent football and rugby World Cups, and the rest.
I’ve watched women’s A-league and cricket recently, and the standard is still very ordinary, to put it nicely.
Having watched a lot of the World Cup, I’m very disappointed in the quality of the Australian women’s football league.
There’s another big problem for Sky, given that sport is so vital to subscriber platforms.
Domestic sport has largely collapsed in this country. It means that a lot of the best action, from overseas, occurs in very different time zones, so is difficult to watch or clashes with normal work hours.
And sports fans don’t necessarily spend a lot of time actually watching sport - as in entire games - anymore.
Gambling, fantasy leagues, social media, highlight clips on phones... that is where the game is largely at.
Chris Rattue has been a journalist since 1980 and is one of the most respected opinion writers in New Zealand sports journalism.